GAO Says We Need More Than a Vision for High Speed Rail

Excited about the prospect of high speed rail in America? Lots of people have been. But as Yonah Freemark reports on The Transport Politic, yesterday the General Accountability Office threw a bit of a wet blanket on the growing enthusiasm. The GAO is saying the Obama administration has so far failed to provide clear goals and a comprehensive plan for a high speed rail system:

254090836_5e5e644124_m.jpgWant trains like Spain’s? We need a plan. Photo by dewet via Flickr.

[A]t a [June 23] hearing in the U.S. Senate, General Accounting Office Director of Physical Infrastructure Susan Fleming described her concerns
about the government’s distribution of high-speed rail funds. She focused on the Federal Railroad Administration’s unwillingness thus far to lay out specific goals for American fast train strategy and argued that the Department of Transportation must establish a coordinated, long-term plan for providing funds. Meanwhile, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo continued to mistakenly argue that U.S. plans match those of European countries.

Ms. Fleming’s statement comes three months after the release of GAO’s major report on high-speed rail, which advocated a major federal investment in the transportation mode. Emphasizing that that report pushed the DOT to pinpoint specific goals for rail improvement, Ms. Fleming argued that the Obama Administration’s actions so far were little more than a “vision,” rather than “a strategic plan.”

The U.S. must “define goals for investing in high speed rail,” she said, and describe “how these investments will achieve them, how the federal government will determine which corridors it could invest in, [and] how high speed rail investments could be evaluated against possible alternative modes in those corridors.”
Ms. Fleming said that the FRA largely agreed with her opinions. In
fact, DOT has been planning to release a draft national rail plan by
mid-October; however, that is a month after the FRA will release initial stimulus bill grants to applicant projects for rail investment.

Meanwhile, Greater Greater Washington looks at Metro’s safety systems in the wake of Monday’s crash. Complete Streets Blog reports they’re rallying for complete streets in Topeka, KS.  And Hard Drive writes about a study that shows that for the first time, more people in Amsterdam are making trips by bicycle than by car.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Oversight Gap in Team Obama’s High-Speed Rail Plan

|
The White House’s economic stimulus law included several large new spending programs, from $4 billion for broadband to $2.4 billion for electric car batteries. But nothing has aroused so much interest — and criticism — as the $8 billion for American high-speed rail. (Photo: Streetsblog LA) Under the circumstances, one might think that lawmakers would […]

GOP Budget Would Slash Transpo Spending, Entrench Oil Dependence

|
With the release of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal yesterday, right wing calls for massive cuts to transportation spending are now enshrined in the GOP leadership’s fiscal plan. Ryan singled out transportation as an area particularly ripe for cuts, criticized the use of gas tax revenues for projects that aren’t highways, and […]

Expectations for High-Speed Rail Coming Down to Earth

|
Three months after the Obama administration announced the first winners of what it hopes will be the first of many federal grants to build U.S. high-speed rail networks, advocates and planners are settling in for a long battle to surmount the obstacles and unknowns that stand in the way of long-term bullet train development. If […]